April 11, 2019 4:37 am
Updated: April 11, 2019 1:39 pm

Canada closes embassy in Sudan as army forces president Omar al-Bashir to step down

WATCH: Sudanese President al-Bashir ousted by military, placed under arrest

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Canada’s embassy in Sudan closed Thursday after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was deposed by the army after three decades of autocratic power that included allegations of genocide.

Officials are telling Canadians to avoid all travel to the country because of safety and security concerns, warning of “demonstrations and civil unrest.”

Sudanese sources told Reuters that Bashir, 75, was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard.” A son of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the head of the country’s main opposition Umma Party, told al-Hadath TV that Bashir was being held with “a number of leaders of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group.”

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It was not known what would now happen to Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and is facing an arrest warrant over allegations of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003 and led to death of an estimated 300,000 people.

The downfall of Bashir follows the toppling this month of Algerian strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika, also following mass protests after three decades in power.

Government sources and the minister of production and economic resources in North Darfur, Adel Mahjoub Hussein, told Dubai-based al-Hadath TV that Bashir’s presidency was over and consultations were being held on creating a ruling military council. Early on Thursday morning, state television said the military would make an announcement soon. But hours later no statement had been issued, amid reports of differences about the make-up of the transitional council.

READ MORE: Army reportedly clashes with riot police during anti-government sit-in protest in Sudan

Military rule again?

Names that have been circulating include Vice President and Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, an ex-military intelligence chief, also an Islamist, and former army chief of staff Emad al-Din Adawi.

Adawi is said to be favoured by regional neighbours at odds with Bashir over his Islamist leanings.

Thousands of people flocked to an anti-government protest outside the ministry on Thursday, while huge crowds took to the streets in central Khartoum, dancing and shouting anti-Bashir slogans. Protesters chanted: “It has fallen, we won.”

Demonstrators called for a civilian government and said they would not accept an administration led by military and security figures, or by Bashir’s aides.

WATCH: Terrifying UCG footage shows moments gunshots ring outside defence ministry in Khartoum

Omar Saleh Sennar, a senior member of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, one of the main protest groups, said it was waiting for the army statement and expected to negotiate with the military over a transfer of power from Bashir. “We will only accept a transitional civilian government,” Sennar told Reuters.

Kamal Omar, 38, another demonstrator, said: “We will continue our sit-in until we prevail.”

Some demonstrators, who have rallied against Bashir since Dec. 19, said they feared the delay would allow him to go into exile.

Troops deployed around the defence ministry and on major roads and bridges in the capital.

Soldiers stormed the headquarters of Bashir’s Islamic Movement, the main component of the ruling National Congress Party. Protesters also attacked the offices of Sudan‘s intelligence and security service in the eastern cities of Port Sudan and Kassala on Thursday, witnesses said.

READ MORE: Calgary family caught up in deadly violence in Sudan

Fate unclear

Bashir, a former paratrooper who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989, has been a divisive figure who has managed his way through one internal crisis after another while withstanding attempts by the West to weaken him.

Sudan has suffered prolonged periods of isolation since 1993, when the United States added Bashir’s government to its list of terrorism sponsors for harbouring Islamist militants. Washington followed up with sanctions four years later.

The latest crisis has escalated since the weekend, when thousands of demonstrators began camping out outside the defence ministry compound, where Bashir’s residence is located.

Clashes erupted on Tuesday between soldiers trying to protect the protesters and intelligence and security personnel trying to disperse them. At least 11 people died, including six members of the armed forces, the information minister said, citing a police report.

Since December, Sudan has been rocked by persistent protests sparked by the government’s attempt to raise the price of bread, and an economic crisis that has led to fuel and cash shortages

 

 

© 2019 Thomson Reuters

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